Better serve your customers by freeing up staff time
“I want to maximize the efficiency of customer service while minimizing the labor costs. Balancing excellent service with a low cost is the goal to maximize the profits of my restaurant.”
We heard the above quote from more than 20 restaurant owners in Sydney.
Reduce labor costs, increase profits and delight customers
Let’s step into a casual restaurant in the city. This is a popular restaurant with 20 tables. It opens from 11:30am to 2:00pm for lunch and from 5:00pm to 9:00pm for dinner. During the meal time, there are a much higher volume customers. Between the meal times, the restaurant is closed so that the staff can take a break and prepare the food for the next shift.
“Time is money.”
If there are 5 experienced wait staff, the venue will spend about $210,000 every year. But in reality, from the restaurants we interviewed, there are often only 2 experienced full-time wait staff and 7 part-time wait staff (3 for lunchtime and 4 for dinnertime) which means the restaurant will only spend about $120,000. The part-time staff enable more flexible scheduling and perceived cost saving. Time is money.
The restaurant owners we spoke with believed that all the staff are efficient and cooperate well with each other. Here is a brief summary of a waiter’s tasks (what they should do vs. what they actually do):
From the diagram, we can see that wait staffs try to reduce some “unnecessary” time (around 3 minutes per table). If the casual restaurant we visited turned a table five times per day, the wait staff would have 300 more minutes (300 minutes = 3 min/table * 20 tables * 5 table turnovers) to better serve customers and make more profits. Time is money.
How the right technology can help meet increasing customer demands
Having spoken to those with many years experience of delivering technology, we first need to understand the problems and inefficiencies. Only then can we explore the appropriate technologies and tools to choose what is the right technology for the job.
With the Australian restaurant industry, our research revealed some manual tasks where technology can be applied to enable restaurant staff to add more value (eg. focusing on the customer and making them feel appreciated every time) and reduce the time spent on certain tasks. Our research also revealed that some restaurants feel “threatened”. But from food delivery to reservations, paying the bill and sales reporting, technology has helped restaurants keep up with the consumer demands and needs today. We believe technology will not replace wait staff anytime soon. But it can in fact help the wait staff enjoy their job more which in turns helps them to provide a better, more personalised service without additional costs. Imagine a wait staff approaches you and says would you like a class of your favourite wine. How special would you feel?
The waiter’s tasks are similar across a large number of restaurants. Some of these tasks are “unnecessary” and can be done more efficiently. Wait staff are the most expensive cost in a business so why not utilise them more efficiently to stand out from your competition? Customers come for the combination of experience, service and food, not just to be “served”.
When we analysed some review websites (eg. Zomato, Yelp, Tripadvisor). Customers often mentioned “attentive staffs”, “kindly welcome”, “fast response” in the high rating reviews. It’s also about how a waiter treats and attends to them in addition to how fast their food was served to the table.
Based on our customer survey to 100 Australians,
50% of customers have the least patience for waiting for their order taken. If we include waiting for the menu, that goes up to 66%.
The facts tells us we can use technology to reduce the time users wait to get a menu and have their order taken time. This time saved by the business and wait staff can be used to better serve the customers and build relationships to keep customers coming back (with their friends).
Here is a brief summary of a waiter’s tasks (with the assistance of technology):
Imagine you’re really busy or short a staff, an online order system enables customers to order without waiting and can reduce the efforts of wait staffs by 50%. This can save a waiter around 10 minutes per table from bringing the menu and taking orders to confirming the order and settling the bill. More importantly, the online menu with dish photos can encourage customers make decision faster and order more.
What could a restaurant do with an additional 10 minutes per table?
1. Improve the customer service and sell more. Now, the wait staffs have enough time to do some the “unnecessary” but more meaningful things such as greeting customers, refilling water in time or suggesting some dessert when the customers almost finish the meal.
2. Improve the work environment for staff and thus their loyalty. It’s more stressful to be a waiter than a neurosurgeon. Serving hundreds of customer a day is not an easy work. That’s one of the reasons that 83% of the part-time staff leave each year. Hiring and training new staffs also need time and money. But if the restaurant could provide a light-hearted workplace, and let the wait staffs do more meaningful services, they will work harder to stay here.
3. Provide a more attentive and personalised service. No customer is alike. You may have noticed that some customers are talkative whilst others just come in to order their usual dish and leave without a word. From our customer research, we found that 13% of customers just want to get the food. However, 70% of customers hope that the wait staff are friendly and attentive towards them. Good wait staff analyse the customers and spend more time with the ones who need/want the customer service and let the others enjoy themselves.
3. Optimise restaurant staff cost. Tens of thousands restaurants in China have been using the online order system for years. In February this year, we interviewed some restaurants in China. On average, restaurants reduced staff cost by 20% and were still able to improve the customer service. Take a casual restaurant with 20 tables for example. If the owner was to remove 1 part-time staff, he/she will save $23,000 per year.
Let technology do the hard, boring work
Using the right technology (eg. to do the time-consuming tasks) can allow you to free up some time for your wait staff to better serve and build relationships with your customers. A great customer service has the magic to keep your customers coming back and hence increase your profits.